who had secured her vote for Bell
, had been changed — by purchase, it was said — and was now as zealous for Secession as hitherto against it. Finally, her Convention resolved, on the 4th aforesaid, to send new Commissioners to wait on President Lincoln
, and appointed Messrs. William Ballard Preston
, Alex. H. H. Stuart
, and George W. Randolph
(of whom the last only was formerly a Democrat, and was chosen as a Secessionist), to proceed to Washington
on this errand.
They did not obtain their formal audience until the 13th--the day of Fort Sumter
's surrender — when its bombardment, if not its capture also, was already known in that city — and there was a grim jocosity in their appearance at such an hour to set before the harassed President
such a missive as this:
Whereas, in the opinion of the Convention, the uncertainty which prevails in the public mind as to the policy which the Federal Executive intends to pursue toward the seceded States is extremely injurious to the industrial and commercial interests of the country, tends to keep up an excitement which is unfavorable to the adjustment of the pending difficulties, and threatens a disturbance of the public peace: therefore,
Resolhed, That a Committee of three delegates be appointed to wait on the President of the United States, present to him this preamble, and respectfully ask him to communicate to this Convention the policy which the Federal Executive intends to pursue in regard to the Confederate States.
To this overture, after duly acknowledging its reception, Mr. Lincoln
replied as follows:
In answer, I have to say that, having, at the beginning of my official term, expressed my intended policy as plainly as I was able, it is with deep regret add mortification I now learn that there is a great and injurious uncertainty in the public mind as to what that policy is, and what course I intend to pursue.
Not having, as yet, seen occasion to change, it is now my purpose to pursue the course marked out in that Inaugural Address.
I commend a careful consideration of the document as the best expression I can give to my purposes.
As I then and therein said, I now repeat, “The power confided in me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess, property and places belonging to the Government, and to collect the duties on imports; but, beyond what is necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.”
By the words “property and places belonging to the Government,” I chiefly allude to the military posts and property which were in possession of the Government when it came into my hands.
But if, as now appears to be true, in pursuit of a purpose to drive the United States authority from these places, an unprovoked assault has been made upon Fort Sumter, I shall hold myself at liberty to repossess it, if I can, like places which had been seized before the Government was devolved upon me; and, in any event, I shall, to the best of my ability, repel force by force.
In case it proves true that Fort Sumter has been assaulted, as is reported, I shall, perhaps, cause the United States mails to be withdrawn from all the States which claim to have seceded, believing that the commencement of actual war against the Government justifies and, possibly, demands it. I scarcely need to say that I consider the military posts and property, situated within the States which claim to have seceded, as yet belonging to the United States as much as they did before the supposed secession.
Whatever else I may do for the purpose, I shall not attempt to collect the duties and imposts by any armed invasion of any part of the country; not meaning by this, however, that I may not land a force deemed necessary to relieve a fort on the border of the country.
From the fact that I have quoted a portion of the Inaugural Address, it must not be inferred that I repudiate any other part, the whole of which I reaffirm, except so far as what I now say of the mails may be regarded as a modification.
With this answer, the Commissioners
retired; and the next important news from Virginia
reached Washington via Montgomery
and New Orleans, which cities had been exhilarated to the point of cheering and cannon-firing, by dispatches from Richmond
, announcing the fact that the Convention
had, in secret, taken their State out of the Union
, and united her fortunes with those of the